College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Call for change to stem cell regulation

Professor Emeritus Sir Ian Wilmut says a global stem cell standard could pave the way for universal therapy.

International approach

Professor Wilmut, of MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, is among a number of leading scientists calling on governments from around the world to adopt a joined-up approach.

This would allow induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to be shared between countries.

He and his colleagues believe patients suffering from a range of diseases could benefit from better treatments if new standards in stem cell research are adopted by the international scientific community.

They argue that adopting such regulations would not only facilitate international collaborations but create banks of stem cell lines for future use in patient treatment.

New guidelines

Professor Wilmut makes the case in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The new guidelines would stop patients being denied the use of stem cells from other countries because of differing legislation.

This would be a critical step in ensuring widespread availability of high quality cell therapies in the future.

Professor Sir Ian WilmutMRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Important opportunities

iPSCs cells are created from mature cells in the body and can be reprogrammed to become any type of cell in the body. These cells will offer important opportunities in cell therapy.

In the paper, Professor Wilmut and colleagues highlight the importance of immune matching between iPSCs donors and recipients.

Possible solution

The scientists say that while personalised iPSC stem cell lines could be developed - that is where a patient receives his or her own cells as treatment - in practice it would be very difficult to achieve because of time and cost.

A better solution would be to build an international bank of stem cell lines from a small pool of people to provide a useful match for a majority of the patient population, say scientists. These could be safely transplanted without immune rejection.

Calculations suggest that cells from approximately 150 selected people would provide a useful immunological match for the majority of people in the United Kingdom.

It is likely that similar numbers will be required elsewhere.

This stem cell bank would only be effective if different countries adopted the same regulations.